Get Some Sleep!

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By Rita J. King

Employers lose an estimated $63 billion on “presenteeism” when workers who haven’t gotten enough sleep show up to work and perform poorly. For most of my life, I stayed up extremely late and once I went to bed, I struggled with a racing mind. When I started at Science House, I decided to measure my sleep stats and slept with a band on my head so Zeo could keep track. The results were shocking. Was it possible that I really only got 17 minutes of deep sleep a night (even though I apparently still had an hour and a half of REM?) I decided to tackle the problem, and two years later, it’s solved. Sleeping well has changed my entire life, especially my ability to focus. Here’s what works for me:

1) Exercise a lot. Physical exhaustion helps keep my brain and body in sync. When I start the day with a 5k, my energy level is high, I feel euphoric, I’m able to concentrate all day and I drift off to sleep at night.

2) Keep track of to-do’s. Prioritizing my list into long and short term goals is extremely helpful. I have a whole system for managing my list, and it takes a huge amount of stress away because I don’t have things popping into my head while I’m trying to fall asleep.

3) Worry less. Instead of worrying about things at night, I remind myself that with more sleep I’ll be able to work toward a solution or see things more clearly the next day.

4) Don’t watch movies or TV. If I watch any media before I go to bed, it peps me up and gives me weird dreams. Horror dreams are a guaranteed nightmare, if I can fall asleep at all, but even the slightest hint of action has a way of hijacking my brain.

5) Think big thoughts. This one might seem counterintuitive, but since you can’t just turn your brain off, give it something worth pondering that doesn’t focus on your daily concerns. The best thing to study at night, when you still have some energy at the end of the day, is science. Reading about exoplanets makes it easier to drift off later, and studying particle physics puts things in perspective.

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